EventLAB 2021 took place online and at Central Hall Westminster on Wednesday 24th November 2021, this year focusing on what the events world needs to build back stronger than ever.
This panel discussion explored the essential hybrid trends and takeaways that event organisers should know going forward. Joining us for this session was Adam Simpson, Director of Marketing and US Sales at etc.venues, Vanessa Lovatt, Chief Evangelist at Glisser, Simon Burton, Co-Founder and Director at Virtual Events Institute, and Jason Larcombe, Senior Project Manager at White Light.
Watch the full session below and read on for the key takeaways.
Table of Contents
Watch The Discussion
Reaching new audiences
One trend to come out of the pandemic (and one that is surely here to stay) is the ability to reach new audiences through digital and hybrid events. The events industry has undergone a huge reset in thinking in terms of how we run events and the new technology we have had to adapt to using.
Digital and in-person audiences also have very different needs; we're having to ensure our in-person audience receives a high quality experience, whilst simultaneously creating a curated stream of content for the virtual audience too.
Attendee expectation continues to rise
Attendees were very forgiving last year, with the events industry effectively put on pause and changes happening very quickly, they had a lot more patience. These days, however, attendees expect more, whether they're physically in the room or watching online. Luckily, we have seen a high degree of experimentation in the industry, and it's clear that event organisers are constantly learning and trying to keep up with these expectations. The industry is evolving quickly, its key we continue to evolve with it.
Think things through more carefully
Plan for both of your audiences, but don't try and group them together and treat them as if they're the same. Similarly with suppliers and stakeholders, we have to think much more carefully about our choices and how we interact with them.
Speaker selection, for example, involves different elements than before: it used to be about selecting speakers that would sell the most tickets, but now it's about the speakers who you can rely on to do a great job and that will bring really useful perspectives and insight to your content. We can't rely on old formats, things need to be thought through much more.
Also, running an event to time becomes so much more important when you have a virtual audience; if your session runs over, they may miss out on scheduled networking sessions or activities, and their overall experience at the event is then impacted. They don't have the luxury of a spontaneous networking chat in the coffee queue!
It's not necessary to try and take on every single piece of tech you can get your hands on; it's about taking a small number of new features, and implementing them really well. Less is more, particularly for the virtual component. A core principle of a good hybrid event could be to offer less to the virtual audience, but make sure it's done really well and that they get benefit from it.
So what actually is a hybrid event?
A hybrid event isn't simply the same content across both audiences, that's just broadcasting. A hybrid event is appropriate content served to appropriate audiences. Some of that content might overlap, but organisers have to make sure there is some content that's bespoke for each. You must consider your audience and its needs, and don't forget that content is king.
"Serve your attendees the content they want, in the environment in which they are."
Simon Burton, Co-Founder, Virtual Events Institute
Guide your audience
If you want people to be engaged at a hybrid event, tell them how to be engaged! We can't assume that attendees will work it out for themselves, so communicate with them, give them really clear instructions, signpost the platforms, and make it easy for them.
How do your teams function for hybrid events?
VANESSA: Teams can work from anywhere as long as they are prepared. There are certainly some advantages to sitting in the same room as other core members of the events team, but it's non-essential.
JASON: From a technical standpoint, it's necessary to be in the same room as each other.
SIMON: From a delivery point of view, there are some roles that are dependant on being in the same room, whereas others could work remotely.
Do you need a larger team to manage a hybrid event?
JASON: We have a team that delivers the live event, and a team that delivers the online event, but it is taken on a case by case basis.
VANESSA: I would say you need at least one person per stream.
SIMON: Our team has been scaled massively for large events such as a virtual awards ceremony we ran recently, and we became really adept at using tools like Whatsapp and Slack too.
When planning, how do you prepare for both the virtual element and the in-person element? And how do you ensure people still turn up in-person?
VANESSA: Try to avoid limiting yourself to pre-pandemic audience sizes because hybrid events have the scope to be much larger. With our recent hybrid events, in order to still attract in-person attendees, we made sure to create really great experiences and offer something that the in-person audience would get something that the virtual audience didn't. And this works both ways; the virtual audience would get something that the in-person audience didn't get. So we made sure that these experiences were custom and bespoke to that audience. That being said, people do change their mind, so be prepared for that.
About The Speakers
Adam Simpson, Director of Marketing and US Sales, etc.venues
Adam is passionate about innovation in the meetings and events sector. Winner of the miAlist in 2020 he has been committed to the recovery of the industry. UKickstart, a national hybrid event, involving 12 associations and 15 venues was pioneered by Adam to highlight the opportunities technology offers for future events. As Vice Chair of the HBAA Technology Committee, Associate Director for ITM and a contributor to the IACC Meeting Room of the Future report he takes a keen interest in both technology and design.
Vanessa Lovatt, Chief Evangelist, Glisser
Vanessa is Chief Evangelist at Glisser, an award-winning tech platform powering unique company event experiences, anywhere. Since 2010, Vanessa has held Managing Director positions at various events and digital community companies, spanning virtual, hybrid and in-person events. She is also on the Advisory Board of EventWell, an Ambassador for the Positive Event Institute and a Subject Matter Expert for the Virtual Event Institute.
Simon Burton, Co-Founder and Director, Virtual Events Institute
Simon is a serial event industry entrepreneur, having created several successful event businesses. Simon was co-founder of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, as well as the Football Business Awards and the Sports Business Awards. In 2020 he helped establish the Virtual Events Institute.
Jason Larcombe, Senior Project Manager, White Light
Jason joined White Light as a Design Assistant, before progressing through the company to become a Senior Project Manager. Jason now plays a vital role in developing the company’s Managed Venues portfolio, such as Central Hall Westminster and Illuminate at the Science Museum, where he is responsible for designing integrated lighting, video and audio systems across a range of multi-use spaces.
Make sure to check out the rest of the EventLAB 2021 session writeups over on the Hire Space blog, read our recap of the whole event, and follow us on social to keep up to date with EventLAB news and updates.
If you're looking to plan an event of your own and need a little help, our event experts are on hand to share their advice and help you create the perfect experience. Book a call below to get the ball rolling.